Attritious wear of silicon carbide in simulated grinding tests against a cobalt base superalloy at high speed and extremely small feed rate was studied using a scanning electron microscope (SEM) and an auger electron spectroscope (AES). In many cases the wear area of silicon carbide was found to be concave rather than planar in shape. Several microcracks and grain boundary fracture were also observed. No evidence of metal build-up was observed on silicon carbide which was not the case with aluminum oxide. AES study of the rubbed surface on the work material and transmission electron microscope (TEM) investigation of the wear debris suggest that attritious wear of silicon carbide is due to one or more of the following mechanisms: 1 – Preferential removal of surface atoms on the abrasive, layer by layer, by oxidation under high temperature and a favorably directed shear stress; 2 – disassociation of silicon carbide at high temperature and (a) diffusion of silicon into the work material and formation of metal silicides and (b) diffusion of carbon into the work material and formation of unstable metal carbides (in the present case Ni3C and Co3C) which decompose during cooling to metal and carbon atoms; 3 – pinocoidal cleavage fracture of silicon carbide on basal planes c(0001) resulting in the removal of many micron-sized crystallites.

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